I have to admit that for awhile I was wondering if Aaron Morehead and Justin Benson (Resolution, Spring, The Endless, etc) had lost their touch because while I was blown away by Resolution (2012) each subsequent film I’ve seen from the pair seemed to drop in my esteem.
And it wasn’t that the followups were necessarily bad more than Resolution was so damn good and when you start on such a high note and it’s hard to maintain that sort of momentum.
So when I started watching Something in the Dirt (2022) and it began to irritate me I wasn’t as put out as I might have been because it seemed like a fairly logical trajectory.
The things that bothered me weren’t legion, but there were more than enough of them.
For instance, every time John or Levi (played by Aaron Morehead and Justin Benson) said or did something there would be a flashback to their childhood, a graph, or something, as if their just saying so didn’t quite make things clear enough.
Now, I believe in ‘show, don’t tell’ as much as anyone but it doesn’t need to apply to every bit of minutiae that happens on screen.
And besides, it felt like padding to me, as if the directors were trying to make what was intrinsically not interesting a little more so.
Then there’s the way the movie was shot, which seems very deliberately designed to look as ‘lo-fi’ and like a home movie as possible.
Please. Morehead and Benson have directed 5 movies and episodes of shows like Archive 81, The Twilight Zone and Moon Knight so they’re a bit beyond having to make their movies look rough, which implies a stylistic choice.
Then there’s the running time, which at 1 hour and 56 minutes is by my reckoning 30-40 minutes too long.
So, I stopped watching about half way though and picked it up again the next day.
And I’m really glad I did because it’s pretty amazing.
The movie begins with Levi Danube (Benson) moves into a new apartment and meets John Daniels (Morehead), who lives in the same building.
Eventually they discover that Levi’s apartment is a nexus for weird and uncanny occurrences, which cause the two to try and film what’s going on around them, which John connects to various conspiracy theories.
This is where the movie really gets interesting because it seems unlike anything the pair have done before in that in their prior movies what was going on around them was a certainty (as in as a viewer we had no reason to doubt what we were seeing).
This is not the case with Something in the Dirt, where we come to learn that the perspective that a story is being told from changes everything.
This ends up in some ways making the movie appear perhaps more conventional than their past efforts, but ironically enough that conventionality is what makes the movie much more than the sum of its parts.
Or maybe not. I have no idea if my interpretation of the movie is accurate, but that’s what I got out of it.